In the early 1980s, Leonard McGurr's name was often uttered in the same breath as those of his artist friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Known then as Futura 2000, he was a rising star of New York's graffiti scene, his celebrated subway murals bridging the gap between graphic street art and abstraction.
But then, as galleries began merging street art with fine art -- an evolution that would propel some of his contemporaries to multi-million-dollar stardom -- he grew disillusioned with the establishment. "I got sour," he recalls.
In the decades that followed, he moved beyond walls, canvases and aerosols, finding new mediums for an aesthetic that nods to particle physics and the space age. With two children to support, McGurr shunned exhibitions in favor of graphic design and, later, edgy brand collaborations with the likes of Comme des Garçons and Nike.
We meet in the labyrinthine basement of Hong Kong's upscale Landmark mall, where McGurr's "Futuraland" sculptures, mobiles and streetwear are available via a pop-up store that counts Dior and Gucci as neighbors. In the atrium above, his largest work to date -- a 20-foot-tall stainless-steel rocket -- regularly shoots clouds of smoke over passing shoppers.